Edelstein: Lapid damaging Knesset's reputation

Lapid says he won't give major speeches at Knesset because of heckling; Gafni: Haredim won't give you satisfaction of arguing.

Lapid speaking at the Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid speaking at the Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid is damaging the legislature’s image by choosing to give important speeches elsewhere, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said on Saturday night.
“Lapid’s decision disgraces the institution of the Knesset, degrades its members from all factions and severely harms the image of the Knesset and its members,” Edelstein said.
His comments followed an email Lapid sent to supporters on Friday, in which he explained that he delineated his economic plans the previous earlier at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, and not in his first speech to the Knesset on Tuesday, because of hecklers.
“An elected official was sent by his voters to the Knesset, which is his work place, and therefore, it would be appropriate for him to speak to the nation from there,” the Knesset speaker added. “Whoever decides to make his important speeches outside of the Knesset will have to pass his laws outside the Knesset!” he quipped.
According to Edelstein, now especially, while the 2013-14 state budget is being prepared, the finance minister should allow for a dialogue with representatives of different population groups that could be affected by the budget.
On Friday, Yesh Atid chairman Lapid sent an email to supporters in which he recounted a conversation he had with MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) on Tuesday, immediately after Lapid’s speech during which he and haredi MKs argued heatedly.
Lapid wrote that he told Gafni he’s making a mistake by heckling him, because he could not finish a sentence without interruption, and is going to give his speech to the INSS.
“I would have preferred to give the speech in the Knesset,” Lapid said. “In my eyes, it is more democratic and appropriate that MKs be the first to hear from the finance minister his economic plans, and not read about them in the newspaper the next morning.”
According to Lapid, Gafni responded: “True, so why don’t you do that?” “We both know exactly what will happen. I will start talking, and you will scream and shout, and I won’t be able to explain anything,” Lapid said he responded. “An economic vision is complex and deserves to have an intelligent debate about it, based on facts. I need 25 minutes to explain the budget, and it doesn’t seem to me to be asking too much for MKs to listen and not interrupt when I’m discussing something that will determine how the country’s budget is run.”
Lapid then challenged Gafni to ask the opposition to stay quiet and allow him to present the budget in peace, and Gafni said he would get back to the finance minister. “Of course, he never got back to me, and he probably never will,” Lapid concluded.
Soon after, Gafni responded, opening by congratulating Lapid on writing on a Friday before Shabbat began, echoing his criticism of the finance minister earlier that week.
“I read your letter and the story is correct, but you forgot to mention the most important detail,” Gafni wrote. “I told you we will no longer give you the satisfaction of arguing over the haredi issue. We will demand what the nation justly demands – clear, economic responses to your fatal blows to the middle class and weaker sectors.”
According to Gafni, Lapid said that while he believes Gafni will hold back, he thinks other haredi MKs will not be able to resist.
Gafni retorted that heckling in the plenum is part of the democratic process in the Knesset and in parliaments around the world, and hinted to the fact that Lapid’s father, former justice minister Yosef “Tommy” Lapid excelled in it.
“As for the marks you give me on my behavior in the plenum, leave it, Yair, the voters already did that, and gave UTJ two additional seats – almost 30 percent more than in the previous election – for our management of the Knesset Finance Committee and the Health Ministry,” the UTJ MK added.
According to Gafni, Lapid is ruining his party’s achievements, by raising income tax after it was lowered by 2 percent in the last Knesset. Gafni called for Lapid to refrain from raising value-added tax, as well.